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Groomed to Consume


Groomed to Consume

Anja Lyngbaek

Originally published on the Economics of Happiness Blog.

With Christmas coming up, household consumption will soon hit its yearly peak in many countries. Despite homely pictures of tranquility on mass-produced greeting cards, Christmas is more about frenzied shopping and overspending than peace on earth or quality time with family and friends. As with so much of our lives, the holidays have been hijacked by the idea that satisfaction, even happiness, is only one more purchase away.


Thank you for this. The sweetest gifts I ever get are walks in the woods with my precious hound. I abhor the mall and all its “glitz”. While I do appreciate this computer on which I type, I shall never pray to it. Nature, genuine people, and sassy animals are much more deserving.


The differences between Mexico and Denmark with how the intrusion of consumerism intrudes, is one I experienced in my own lifetime having gown up on a small farm with one TV channel.

Our Christmas celebrations were not about the STUFF. It was about the get togethers with family. We each received one small gift but more often then not that gift soon set aside as we much preferred those “made up games”.

When I hit my 20’s I started working with a person who was a full blown Socialist. In one of our many Conversations he stated “all advertising should be banned. It only creates a world where things you do not need are needed”. Groomed to consume in other words and as entire towns, cities , provinces and Countries accept that model the destruction of everything around us is accelerated.


Very happy the writer includes the need for system change, and calls on people to pressure governments to withdraw from corporate-controlled, endless-growth economics.

As well as calling on privileged “consumers” to slow it way down. That’s important. But individual commitments will not be sufficient. We need popular movements, to transform political power, and end corporate rule.


A transformation away from mass consumerism is coming.

It will be ushered in by food riots, mass killings of refugees, and multiple water wars.

Also, sadly, I work in advertising. The shameless dishonesty in my field is boundless.


aah yes.
The arrogance of a species that knows no bounds.
Not even the system that nurtures its existenced.

Well we are sprinting towards the edge of the flat earth.
Respect and humility were left behind the starting line.


At least you’re honest about it, Skeptic Tank.

On my most pessimistic days, I think that the transformation is not only here, we may be too late to do anything much to stop it. When I was in grade school, I learned that the “Northwest Passage” was a myth that had existed for centuries. In my lifetime, the polar icecap has melted.

And I hate to say it, but . . . Anja Lyngbaek makes some sound and heartfelt points in her laudable article, but for quite some time whenever I read pieces like this, and the author mentions his or her children, I can’t help but think that is the root cause of the problem. We can reduce consumerism by reducing the number of consumers.

When I was born, the Earth’s population was just over 3 billion. Now it’s over 7 billion. I’m no genius, but even as a teenager in the late 1970s I had an intuition that the Earth might be getting overpopulated, and it was then that I thought I’d never have any children. I haven’t had any, though I have had opportunities to father a child, and it is still conceivable (if you’ll pardon the expression). But leaving aside that my own parents had me later in their lives, thus creating even greater generation-gap issues, I’m even more adamant against it.

Nature seems to be a great leveler, and it is still possible that humanity will not go extinct, but what you envision is about what I have envisioned too with respect to leveling, to winnow the herd down to a manageable number.

Not to abuse the well-known trope, it is the boiling-frog scenario: It has already begun, but slowly enough not to cause too much alarm. However, I did get alarmed earlier this year when I read this BBC News article about cities poised to run out of water:

11 Cities Most Likely to Run out of Water


Me and the missus opted out of kids, too. Happy with our decision.

You and I were born at nearly the same time. And over the years, we watched the predictions coming in.

They were right except for being too rosy. Now we’re fucked.


Change from a Power and Possessions economy to a USE and ACCESS economy.
Share the stuff of life no need to own your own copy of everything like we are taught to in Western society’s.
If people can get access to the stuff of life and use of those items is that not wealth.


The problem goes deeper in other ways, as well.

Good article; the only thing I’d change is this: “This sort of greed is an artificially induced condition.” It’s neither human nature or entirely consciously created; it’s a symptom of our disease.

That disease has various names; probably the best is Wetiko. I think of it as civilizational autism; it’s both an individual and collective disease with manifestations like attachment disorders and addiction. The addiction is physical/emotional before it’s cognitive; a response to infantile unmet needs. It’s that that’s played on by industrial society to funnel inchoate addiction into whatever is profitable. We’re trained first to be trainable, then trained to buy. The first training is accomplished by never quite meeting basic emotional needs and linking those needs to stuff by media (first presented within a family context to more firmly stick it). The emptiness that’s thus felt physically and emotionally is partly satisfied with imagined and created connections to alcohol and drugs, the Training deVice, other people’s forests and oil, experiences sold through media…

Diminishing marginal returns as in drug addiction keeps people desiring more, and keeps them locked into lives of submission and longing that promise more and more stuff as they get older—which keeps them in line and not thinking or questioning. And a house to put it all in.

Those are just a few of the ways human nature and the disease are exploited and perpetuated by society. The addiction of capitalism (and to capitalism) and the narcissism of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny (ie, addiction to big things like land and nations and races of slaves…) of empire are only the outward manifestations of what we’re dealing with. Trumpian malignant narcissism is another; Trump was selected as president because he so perfectly reflects the malignant narcissism that’s an ever more firmly embedded part of our makeup because of the disease. This system defends itself in such complex interwoven ways, it will take very different skills from what most people have to dismantle it.


And the BBC report makes no mention of the US Southwest. Phoenix, Las Vegas, many other large cities, millions of people living in deserts who will have to go… somewhere else, in the very foreseeable future.


To understand how we got here, I encourage everybody to watch this documentary, “Century of the Self.”


Yes. I live in that desert in Southern California.